Category Archives: Family

5 Friday Faves – Red Dead Redemption 2, National Day of Mourning, More Christmas Adverts, Holiday Musical Evenings, and Family Gatherings

Here we go! My 5 favorite finds of this week:

1) Red Dead Redemption 2 – A Western-themed video game, Red Dead Redemption 2, debuted this Fall. The score written by Woody Jackson has a classic feel to it – reminiscent of old western films some of us grew up with. Beyond the Guitar, Nathan Mills‘ classical guitar arrangement of the video game themes does justice to the romance of the Old West featured in the score. Have a listen:

2) National Day of Mourning – For one day, the ugly partisanship in our country fell silent in the shadow of a gracious leader’s life. The 41st US president, George H. W. Bush, died this week. On Wednesday, December 5, 2018, a national day of mourning was called for us to remember him. A two-time vice-president under Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush would only serve one term as President himself. How he will be remembered in history, only time will tell. I remember him as gracious, always gracious. The eulogy for him by his son, 43rd US President George W. Bush, was beautiful and gave the reflection we all needed of a “kinder gentler” man and time in America. May it be so again…Thank you, President Bush.

YouTube Video – Alan Simpson  Eulogy for Preside George H. W. Bush

Bret Baier – George H. W. Bush – a Letter to Live By

3) More Christmas Adverts – I couldn’t resist pointing to a few more Christmas adverts. So sweet and fun. Take time to watch. They will lift your day if you’re having a hard one.

This Hallmark Crown keepsake ornament commercial made me cry:

4) Holiday Musical Evenings – There is nothing like little children, in angel or shepherd garb, singing Christmas songs. We are all proud of them, whether they belong to us or not.Photo Credit: Weldbham, South City Theater

This week marked an annual musical tradition for our family – the VCU Holiday Gala. This evening of rich sacred and secular Christmas songs performed by most all of the current musical groups at VCU is a feast for the ears…and eyes. The students and faculty fancy up nicely. http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Blog-VCU-Holiday-Gala-John-Patykula-2.jpg

I would love to share video of the VCU Symphony Orchestra’s rendition of Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride, under the direction of Dr. Terry Austin – best performance ever. Since that’s not possible, you just have to come. For the moment enjoy the versions by the United States Marine Corps Orchestra and André Rieu ‘s Johann Strauss Orchestra. Mark it on your calendar, if you’re local, for next year!

Also if you’re local…there’s still time for more. Here’s one not to miss:

Annual Advent Lessons and Carols – Cathedral of the Sacred Heart

Any of your favorites? Please give a shout-out in the Comments.

5) Family Gatherings – My growing-up family had its times – good and not so good. We have always had strong beliefs, and sometimes even stronger opinions…and we were not shy about them. As the years have gone by, we have gentled the opinions for the sake of relationship. We have lost some precious family members, too, which has made us more conscious of the fragile nature of life and the gracious gift of family. We’re none perfect but we belong together. That’s why we block out time on the calendar, buy the plane tickets, and soak up family in all its craziness. The young adults we’re so proud of, the sweet new babies, the siblings and spouses.

We don’t always get to see everyone (so we will buy more plane tickets)…nor do we get to see all the friends…but the hope of “next time” is something we build on.

Along with the family time is the Christmas festiveness alongside. My sister-in-law goes all out for us, and we welcome her welcome.

How about you? Home for the holidays?

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That’s my five (plus the quick bonuses below). Any of your own you want to share? My hope for you this month is you savor the good in your life and let go of what are lesser things. We can’t get it all done. So…no matter. We can be gentle with ourselves…and each other.

Bonuses:

Henrico Christmas Mother – my favorite local community outreach:

The Birth of Jesus in the New Testament – One Event, Four Narratives – Dr. Corne J. Bekker

Eating Cheese and Butter Every Day Linked to Living Longer – Kashmira Gander

This Holiday Season, $16 Billion Will Be Wasted on Unwanted Gifts – It’s Time for a New Approach – Joshua Becker

Raising Children Near Their Grandparents Is One of the Most Valuable Gifts You Could Ever Give Them – [We didn’t raise our children near their grandparents; so thankful for siblings & siblings-in-law who did. What a blessing for both grandparents and the kids/grandkids.]Photo Credit: Elisabeth Elliot, Facebook

How to Declutter Your Home to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Jimmy Stewart’s Beautiful Short Film on the Nativity (a comment on the YouTube video: “From IMDB: James Stewart approached the scene where Mr. Kreuger talks to the infant Jesus very seriously. Before filming this scene, he told the producer Michael McLean, “I’ve got only one of these in me. Everyone who doesn’t need to be here, get them out. Tell them I want this to go well. I can do other takes, but this will be the right one. There will only be one.” After the scene was finished, McLean asked the cameraman, “Did you get it?” “I hope so,” was the reply, “because I was crying.””)

 

5 Friday Faves – December Song, Christmas Adverts, Food Insecurity, God’s Purposes, and Giving

This week and the month of November has come to a chilly close. December brings in the the season of Advent and the countdown to Christmas. I will do everything possible to slow down time, to savor the month ahead, and to remember, as Thanksgiving already prompted us, all the reasons we have to be grateful. Here are this week’s favorite finds (also revisiting some old precious ones):

1) December Song – This time in 2016, singer Peter Hollens introduced an original Christmas song. It is now one of my favorite songs of the season. How he introduced it was quite creative. He orchestrated a contest for people to do covers for the song and he had the entrants juried by a small hand-picked group of judges. Nathan (Beyond the Guitar) submitted an arrangement, and in the hundreds of contestants, he came in 16th in the hundreds of contestants. Here is the beautiful December Song and Nathan’s arrangement as well.

2) Christmas Adverts – Remember the Hallmark Christmas commercials of years past? Like this one. I am a sucker for sappy Christmas adverts. Tear up like clockwork. Many of the very best commercials come from Europe and other parts of the world. Here are some faves from this year and years past:

[The one below was produced with a pittance of $65 cost. Brilliant.]

3) Food Insecurity – This is the social dilemma of not having adequate access to fresh, healthy food. When marked by geography, the phrase food deserts is also used.Photo Credit: Mary Lide Parker

A simple Facebook post by a friend generated a thought-provoking, rich conversation on this topic.

Photo Credit: Alee Swanner, Facebook

I share the links from that conversation below.

The Root of the Problem – an Interview with Lindsey Haynes-Maslow – Mary Lide Parker

The Role of Local Food Availability in Explaining Obesity Risk Among Young School-aged Children – Helen Lee

School and Residential Neighborhood Food Environment and Diet Among California Youth – Ruopeng An & Roland Sturm

Studies Question the Pairing of Food Deserts and Obesity – Gina Kolata

Should the Concept of a Food Desert By Deserted? – Layla Eplett

Always being aware of those who may need food is important. This time of the year, we are more likely to give to food banks, church food pantries, and other outreach ministries. This is just a beginning place…but it is a beginning. The family below introduced “canstruction” to us, and we do it every Christmas because of them.Photo Credit: Brenda McEwan, Facebook

4) God’s PurposesWisdom Hunters writer Shana Schutte has posted a fascinating list of 12 ideas on the purposes of God. Please take the time to read them. Comment below which ones were the most meaningful to you at this time. Mine were #1, #11, and #12. [For those of you who rarely click on my links – you know who you are – this one is not to miss.]

Photo Credit: Shana Schutte

Look Up, Child – [Speaking to Culture’s Preference to Youthful Leadership – Samuel D. James

To Survive Our High-Speed Society, Cultivate ‘Temporal Bandwidth’ – Alan Jacobs

5) Giving- On a trip to Walmart this week, I heard the Salvation Army bell ringing for the first time this year. Looking for the ringer, I saw the kettle but not the person. Finally saw him. He was an older black man standing away from the kettle, beyond the shadows of the building, to be able to soak up the warmer rays of the afternoon sun. He was very thin, “breath and britches” my mom-in-law would say. Ringing that bell for the sake of others less fortunate. Sure inspired me to give.

This is the season. I love the video below because we are not always open to give of ourselves…sometimes we need a nudge. Thankful for the nudges and the nudgers.

10 Overlooked People You Should Give Gifts to This Christmas

Baptist Global Response – Gift Catalog

That’s it for this week. Have a lovely weekend – this month fills quickly with all sorts of activities and adventures. Choose wisely and leave space for the unexpected. Maybe even a Christmas miracle.

Bonuses

Eight Blue Zone Lessons for Slowing Down – [Disclaimer: One of the 8 is “Do Happy Hour” – I don’t drink (lots of alcoholism among people I love and have loved – figure I’m vulnerable). So for those like me, I’m thinking any sort of afternoon break in the day – teatime, Happy Hour sans alcohol – would also work.]

FAQA – Frequently Asked Questions by Atheists – Six Day Science

Snowman Memories – This pic reminds me of a wonderful Christmas memory when our kids were small and we lived in Tennessee. Our Delaware family would arrive sometime over Christmas Day. Uncle Mark and Aunt Stacie didn’t make it until the evening because of a Christmas snow that blew in and complicated their travel. Almost immediately after they arrived, they took the kids outside and built a huge snowman out of the fresh and sticky snow. The kids named him “Oatmeal”. By morning, with the temperatures rising, he was quickly diminished but that sweet memory remains.Photo Credit: Beth Taylor, Facebook

…and the seed catalogs arrive:

[Cyber] Monday Morning Moment – Conquering the One Downside of Christmas

Photo Credit: Nerdist

Christmas is huge to those of us who love it. The beautiful upside to Christmas is Jesus Himself – celebrating His entry into the human world as an tiny baby. Because of Jesus, any of us feeling lonely or unloved this time of year can hopefully be sorted out…because we are loved, and we are not alone.

Strange then that the one downside (wait for it) would be so silly, really, in contrast. It does however exist for some and can make us a bit distracted and discombobulated…at least for awhile.

That downside is the quest for just the right present for each person on our Christian gift list.  For some fortunate ones that is actually a thrilling challenge and a worthy cause. These shopping wizards and crafting geniuses already have their presents sorted out before Thanksgiving. Black Friday is the occasion to finish off their lists, not start them.

For some of the rest of us, not so much.

Back when our kids were kids, we used to watch this funny little film Jingle All the Way. It tells the story of two good dads who love their families but procrastinated in buying Turbo-Man for their boys – that film story’s prototype of the most-sought-after toy each year that sells out early to the smartest of shoppers. The film focuses on their Christmas Eve race (with each other) to find one last Turbo-Man somewhere in the city. It is both funny and anxiety-provoking.

I love Christmas but this downside of it looms large right now. In recent years it the need to find that perfect Christmas present (or experience) is heightened by the addition of sweet grandchildren – and hoping to choose the gift both the little ones and their parents will love.

Just this weekend, we were doing a craft at the table in Sunday School, and the kids in my class began talking about what their grandparents were buying for their siblings. They, of course, don’t know for sure what THEY themselves are getting, but based on their wish-list and what their siblings are getting, they seemed confident of a nice haul. It was impressive.

Today is Cyber Monday, the last great post-Thanksgiving sale event where we can take advantage of sales online. Shopping made easy, in our pajamas, fortified with hot beverage of choice. I’m in my annual panic of what to buy for our precious little ones. What to buy…such that when they open their presents, a nervous tic won’t develop in their parents’ eyes. We have the instructions of not to buy too much, and yet, we don’t want to be the only grandparents who abide by those instructions… Aarrgghh!

Deep breath.

So this is today’s quandary…my Monday Morning Moment’s lament. Once the gift-buying is finished, Christmas loveliness will be restored. Whatever happens on Christmas morning will be wonderful, either way. It’s Christmas after all. By then, I’ll be at peace with it. In fact, by then, it will be more than fine that the grandkids get super fun presents from others who love them and money toward their college education from us… They know they’re loved, and that’s what matters.

For today,  I will stare at screen after screen of parent-preferred educational toys, latest greatest children’s books, and local family-friendly “experience” possibilities.

Then…whatever ends up under the Christmas tree for our grandchildren, we will still have play dates, and snuggles in front of the TV, and walks together with the neighbors, and joy at all the wonders of life.

Here’s to the grandparents who don’t wait until Christmas Eve to sort this dilemma out…who know their grandchildren so well they can scout out that perfect present…and who have their own sweet times with these kiddos.

You are rock stars and super heroes.

Anybody else out there with the same struggle as mine? Comment below…and any advice on this downside of Christmas is welcome.

Grandparent Giving: Unspoken Secrets You Must Know Before Giving Gifts – Dave Ramsey

Giving Mistakes that Grandparents Must Avoid

The Downside of Christmas – Sharon Woods Harris

The Pros and Cons of Christmas

How to Faithfully Celebrate Christmas in a World of Materialism – Lia Martin

Friday Faves – Black Friday Bonus – Many More Than the Usual Five

Sometimes life just gets busy. Writing and compiling favorite finds, in particular, get pushed to the back burner. Today, I’m just posting all my faves of the past 3 weeks. Choose what looks interesting to you… and leave the rest for another time. Blessings on you all for visiting today.

1) Beyond the Guitar’s Latest Arrangements

2) #Ephesians429Darrell B. Harrison is definitely a voice crying in our cultural wilderness. He is a writer, speaker, podcaster and brings a very different view for our consideration. Earlier this month he proclaimed a day  #Ephesians429. This comes from a Bible verse: No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.Ephesians 4:29 We could use more days when we use our voices for only the good of others, and not ill.

3) Comedian Dustin Nickerson – Comedian and podcaster opened for John Crist on tour earlier this month in Richmond. So good. Clean comedy. Hilarious.

4) First Responders – The California wildfires and those displaced by them are much on our minds these days in America…and in our prayers. So thankful for all the fire-fighters and other first responders – which include local church pastors. Here’s one story.

5) First Snows – One image from a friend – Fall and Winter combined.Photo Credit: Lara Fraser, Facebook

6) Growing Older and Growing Newer at the Same Time – Thought-provoking piece on growing older without wasting that season on just being old. “The benefit of a renewed mind is that it’s the only way to make peace with an aging body.” – Abigail Dodds

Photo Credit: Get Old

7) Holiday Sweetness – With American Thanksgiving just past and Christmas coming, we will be met with many cultural messages that target and touch our hearts. Here’s one:

Also this sweet idea: No Stress, No Fuss Christmas Pageant & Worship Part I

[Please post some of your holiday favorites in the Comments so we can all enjoy.]

8) This Is Us – the Missing Piece – Husband Dave watches little TV. The one show he has watched with me over the last couple of years is This Is Us. There is just about no stone un-turned in this gripping story. Family, death, adoption, infertility, parenting, foster care, obesity, depression, addiction, divorce, marriage, race, job loss, fame…and I could go on. Only thing missing? Religion. Beautiful, beautiful story…except for not one mention of God. Odd, really. Photo Credit: TV Line

9) Lauren Daigle – a rockstar in the contemporary Christmas music arena. Her voice and the songs she writes have touched our hearts.   She now has received national attention with appearances on The Ellen Show and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. You sing, Girl.

10) Madame Guyon – Over my adult life, this 17th century French woman and Catholic mystic, Madame Guyon, found her way into my devotional life. She has influenced many Christian leaders through the years by her writing and her life itself. I discovered her, quoted often in many of the books I’ve read. When a short biography of her came to my attention, this week, she became even more intriguing to me as she lived two very different lives – that of a vain and wealthy young woman and also, in later years, a completely transformed believer in Christ. She spent many years in prison for her faith and still wrote volume after volume which we can still enjoy today.Photo Credit: iPerceptive

Perhaps her own Christian experience is best described in the following words from her own pen:

 “To me remains nor place nor time ;

My country is in every clime ;

I can be calm and free from care

On any shore since God is there.” – J. Gilchrist Lawson, Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians

So…a couple of weeks of faves. Hope after the blast of family and friend fun at Thanksgiving (if you’re American), you can have a day or two to recuperate. For those who hail from elsewhere, the weekend is here…hope you can spend it in joyful ways.

Much love. Please share in Comments what are your favorite finds of late.

Bonuses:

Vacation Books – Every time I pack my bags to go anywhere, books are tossed in. Whether I read them all or not is irrelevant, but books are part of the pleasure of days out of the routine. I was thrilled recently to meet best selling author Grace Greene. She writes books perfect for vacation. Her books are set in the locations we prefer when we have time away. She actually lives right in our same city which I didn’t know until we met. These are two of her books out of many more. One will be my next vacation read…

Jonathan Franzen’s 10 Rules for Novelists – Jonathan Franzen

Melting Pot – The Voices of Melting Pot

There’s Got to Be a Day After [The Midterm Election] – Bill Wilson – Intercessors for America

Thanksgiving Memories – All Good Gifts

2006 -- Nov -- Thanksgiving table

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17

[Adapted from the Archives]

For most of 20 years, we lived in North Africa where a Thanksgiving holiday was a foreign concept. “Eid el Shukr” (“Feast of Thanks” in Arabic) was understood but not a day set aside. We, along with other expat Americans, brought Thanksgiving with us and invited our local friends into the experience. On the surface, American Thanksgiving has pretty much three constant components – food, family, and football.

Back in the States, the old traditions are changing and yet stay sweetly familiar. My Mom, who always laid out an incredible Southern-style feast on the kitchen counter at home in Georgia, is no longer with us. As with some of you, I’m sure, I miss her still every day and how she lavished love on us through these family times together. Our children are grown now and establishing their own traditions with more families and friends added into the mix. Each year, we find ourselves re-working our own traditions as well.

Thanksgiving is again, for us, all about food, family, and football…but there’s also another element…faith… I am grateful every day for the kindnesses of God and those he’s placed in our lives. Celebrating Thanksgiving allows us to put an exclamation point on being grateful. It’s not just about a table full of food, although food is clearly a focal point. Thanksgiving, even as a national holiday and not a religious one, focuses our sight beyond ourselves. There is an object in Thanksgiving beyond ourselves.

Over 30 years ago, a funky little Broadway musical was turned into a film – Godspell. It was an adaptation of the life of Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew. At that time, I was in the season of life that young people pass through of searching out what exactly I believed. It wasn’t going well at that time. Praise God, He did not forget me during those days when I had all but forgotten Him. Watching the film Godspell was one of the occasions God used to wake me up. There’s a wonder and delight in the young followers of Jesus in the musical. It reminded me of what I had once with God…and what could be again.

All the songs in the musical Godspell are lovely. Composer and Lyricist, Stephen Schwartz, beautifully captured some of Jesus’ teaching and the depth of love and rightness between Him, His followers, and creation, in general. All Good Gifts, adapted from an old hymn, is one such song and is a pure and proper doxology of praise for Thanksgiving.

Worship with me.  [Here’s the YouTube video from Godspell to give you the melody.]

All Good Gifts*
We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land..
But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand..
He sends us snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain…
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain…

All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above
Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love…

We thank thee then, O Father, for all things bright and good,
The seedtime and the harvest, our life our health our food,
No gifts have we to offer for all thy love imparts
But that which thou desirest, our humble thankful hearts!

All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above..
Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love..

I really wanna thank you Lord!
All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above..
Then thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love..

2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 010Food – Family Favorites in Mom’s Kitchen2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 012 a (2)

Football – on T.V. or out on the street with cousins and friends2010 November Thanksgiving in Georgia 204

Family – Time together…savoring every minute2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 015

Happy Thanksgiving…

Oh…just in case Thanksgiving is a struggle…and it isn’t all happy family fun…I pray you take courage and rein in your heart to remember that God sees and loves you. We can be a Thanksgiving blessing to each other…if you’ve read this far…you are a blessing to me. Wish you were at our table…maybe one day you will be. You are definitely welcome at God’s table.

YouTube Video – Take Courage – Kristene DiMarco

*Lyrics and Story Behind the Song – All Good Gifts (Godspell)

YouTube Video – All Good Gifts (Godspell 1990)

YouTube Video Clip – All Good Gifts (Godspell original cast 1973)

Wikipedia article on original hymn/lyric – We Plough the Fields and Scatter (1862)

Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart – Part 2 – Caring

[Today’s blog is Part 2 of 3 – excerpts from a talk given at an ISBC Women’s Ministry Holiday Dinner with the theme: Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart. See Part 1 – Capacityhere and Part 3 – Constancyhere.]

We’re talking about matters of the heart – the kind of character our Godly mothers, grandmothers, and great-aunts demonstrated…that we learned and want to pass onto next generations.

From building capacity, we can move to that character trait of genuine caring. Caring that comes from a heart full of love. We all love…it’s part of our nature. This kind of caring isn’t the love that we in our human effort alone can make happen. This is a love that comes from Jesus to us…and then through us to others.

Every morning, I wake up to this view – my bedside table and the wall beyond it. A framed print hangs right where I see it first thing – a little cherub nestled in an open heart with the words inscribed: “Heart full of love”. A dear friend gave this to me before we went overseas. Like other keepsakes from so many of our friends and loved ones, it reminds me of their caring, and inspires me to be and do likewise.

The Bible is full of calls to love. God is perfect in His own love for us and He then commands us to care for one another. Through every season of our lives. The earliest God-fearers mentioned in the Old Testament were taught to 1) love God and 2) love each other as they would themselves. Jesus also taught these two very same greatest commandments.

The night before He was crucified, in a room with his closest friends and followers, Jesus took that commandment up a notch: “A new commandment I give to you: that you love one another just as I have loved you; you also are to love one another.”

Without Jesus filling us with such love, we could never even fathom how to love others like He loves us. Laying down our lives for one another as He laid his life down for us.

It is obvious how we all benefit from such great love received by Him and lavished on others. During that last supper together, Jesus and those dear to Him, He went on to give one more incentive to love – one more world-shaking incentive. “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Photo Credit: The Fellowship Site

As we love God, and receive His love, we are moved to keep our eyes on Him and allow Him a place in our lives to display His love in all kinds of ways…we can care for others as He cares for us.

“We love because He first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19

In all the seasons of our lives, we deal with people not like us, people we consider haters or spoilers. People who hate us so we are tempted to hate them right back. There are also those people who are just plain indifferent to us or to those we love. Lastly, there are those who are stranger to us. We don’t know them; we don’t need to know them, we think. Whether we believe we are this way or not… how we act toward others is telling.

We were living overseas when 9/11 happened. We came home a year later, and we discovered an America that had suffered so much loss. It was like we as a people had circled our wagons. Even in the South, people didn’t make eye contact, or chat with store clerks or strangers on the street, or generally engage people they didn’t know. It seemed just easier, less risky, to be home with just a few people. Us four and no more, right?

Jesus calls us to care for those closest to us, those easy to love, those who care for us. It’s a joy to love them. His call goes much farther, though…for our own sake and that of all we encounter.

God calls us to care…to love…as He does.

This is the largest sincerity check of our lives. The life of the Christ-follower is a life of love…of deep caring…of caring beyond comfort.

We have all heard the response “Well, it’s not about you.” In our flesh, we totally want it to be about us…but…

When we make the substance of our lives about ourselves, our lives get very small. They seem big to us because of all the responsibilities we carry; all the cool stuff we get to be about. However…what could our lives be like if we cared, truly cared, about others…any others, all others?

“To fill up on God, you begin to have more than enough love for others and yourself because the God Who IS love is operating on the inside of you.”Cassia Glass

Photo Credit: Jill E. McCormick

We can be the people through whom the world sees Jesus. Because of our love, our care, for each other.

This kind of caring is costly. It cost Jesus everything. Whatever the cost is to each of us, young or old, we gain so much more than we give. A 19th century missionary, Amy Carmichael, spent her whole life serving orphans in India, cast-off little girls who would come to know God’s love…through Amy. She had this to say about what caring costs and what we gain in caring:

“Let us not be surprised when we have to face difficulties. When the wind blows hard on a tree, the roots stretch and grow the stronger, let it be so with us. Let us not be weaklings, yielding to every wind that blows, but strong in spirit to resist.”

Photo Credit: AZQuotes

I want to just stop right here a moment. You…you women right here have shown yourselves to be this kind of Christ-follower. You have built capacity for God to show up through you. You love through all kinds of hard. You know from God’s Word that our battle is not against one another…the Evil One wants to break us and divide us and tarnish what the world sees of God in us. You stay strong, Dear Ones…and keep tending the embers of love, in the midst of this hard place. God will keep showing up.

Photo Credit: QuoteFancy, John Groberg

Monday Morning Moment – a Comforting Reminder When Family Gathered – “Do the Next Thing”

Photo Credit: Francis J. Gavin, Kristian Dela Cour

This morning I woke weighed down with so much undone that needing doing. A week of travel, as delightful as it was, lends itself to a deep sleep on Sunday night and an early fretful waking on a Monday morning.

Do you have those awakenings? When your mind clears from sleep and you begin looking at the week ahead and think “How am I going to get it all done?” Or “How do I even do it?” Anxiety builds, and depression follows.

That’s how this morning started…and then the heaviness lifted with the simplest thought. A reminder I received just this weekend…a reminder that stirred sweet memories of a woman with huge influence on my younger years…writer Elisabeth Elliot.

On our trip to see family this past week, we had an evening with girl talk. Four generations of women around the dinner table, laughing, sharing, and remembering. [I know men do this, too – how else do they keep all those football, baseball, and fishing trip stories so fresh in their memories?]

In the course of the warm glow of that conversation, my dear sister-in-law, Stacie, reminded her girls of how she counseled with them through their high school angsty moments. She told us she used to  quote Elisabeth Elliot‘s own advice to her daughter, Valerie, when she was overwhelmed by life: “Do the next thing.”

[Stacie sounded just like Elisabeth Elliot as well…took me back to when I was her girls’ ages and first began reading Elliot’s books, including her husband Jim’s journals.]

Elisabeth Elliot died in 2015, but through her life she wrote many books that had huge impact on my life. From my teen years. Books that remain treasures today…http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Blog-Elisabeth-Elliot-Love-is-a-Laid-Down-Life.jpg

For years after, as a struggling mom with young children, I would tune into her daily radio shows – Gateway to Joy – listening to her “square-your-shoulders” walk-with-God counsel. Her manner was both tough and tender as she covered the real stuff of life and how we maneuver through it in the presence of God.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

This morning, in the cloud of confusion over where to even begin this week, God brought our dinner table conversation to mind. Hearing Stacie quoting Eliot in that no-nonsense voice of hers made me laugh then, and smile today.

Four little words that brought clarity.

“Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now…Do the next thing.Elisabeth Elliot

When You Don’t Know What to Do – (a tribute to Elisabeth Elliot) – Rhonda Quaney

On the Passing of Elisabeth Elliot – Love Is a Laid Down Life – Deb Mills

Love Is a Laid-Down Life  – a Slowing Down for a Season – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Pinterest, AllysTruth

YouTube Video: Elisabeth Elliot: Suffering Is Never For Nothing

Writing Waits

Photo Credit: Pixnio

Life waits on no one. That tension of lovely and less than occasionally takes us away from such things as thinking and putting those thoughts into words on a screen.

I love to write.

1000 words a day paves the way for that book…or that blog that touches lives with clarity and thoughtFULness.

The connection between you and me is encouraging and emboldening, I hope. It sure is for me. Even not knowing who “you” are with each posting, my imagining is that we would be friends. If we aren’t already.

Thanks for reading and thinking along with me.

It’s been over a week and will be two before I sit in front of this “word processing” place.

A new granddaughter…a birthday and anniversary…a visit with beloved inlaws out of state. These and other things have taken priority.

For the moment…

So gladly I have hit pause.

Miss you but you have those moments too…

when writing or something else less peopled waits as we embrace what is in front of us.

While I’m not writing, how about you write? I would love to hear in the Comments, who you are, Dear Reader. Dear fellow traveler. In this space of a life.

Until next week…take care.

5 Friday Faves – First Responders, Fall TV, Getting Older, a Narcissist Culture, and Visual Aids

As I write it’s raining… This Friday – lots of country music and YouTube videos…and a grateful heart. Oh…and just as I was about to publish, Nathan Mills‘ arrangement of John Paesano‘s Spiderman theme (for the PS4 game of the same name) just got posted. Enjoy.

1) First Responders – This has been quite a week – between the observance of the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the Hurricane Florence pounding away in the Carolinas right now.

We have listened to news reports, documentaries, and one another talk about these two occurrences all week. All I want to say is:

“Thank you, all you who go in as others are running out. All of you, first responders, who seek to protect and care for us. Thank you. May God keep you safe.”

Photo Credit: Health.mil

2) Fall TV Shows – Nope, not talking NFL football here. Nor is this heralding the many Fall-themed Hallmark movies on the horizon. This fave marks the building excitement for premier weeks for our favorite TV shows. You tell me your favorites, I’ll tell you mine. Fall is maybe my favorite seasons…this being one reason among many.

One TV show not coming back yet is Stranger Things. This might help:

3) Getting Older – Country artist (and Songwriters Hall of Famer Alan Jackson turns 60 this month. That’s still real young, but his song The Older I Get rings true to the experience of…getting older. The lyrics of this poignant country song ring true…they can speak for themselves.

The older I get
The more I think
You only get a minute, better live while you’re in it
‘Cause it’s gone in a blink
And the older I get
The truer it is
It’s the people you love, not the money and stuff
That makes you rich

And if they found a fountain of youth
I wouldn’t drink a drop and that’s the truth
Funny how it feels I’m just getting to my best years yet

The older I get
The fewer friends I have
But you don’t need a lot when the ones that you got
Have always got your back
And the older I get
The better I am
At knowing when to give
And when to just not give a damn

And if they found a fountain of youth
I wouldn’t drink a drop and that’s the truth
Funny how it feels I’m just getting to my best years yet
The older I get

And I don’t mind all the lines
From all the times I’ve laughed and cried
Souvenirs and little signs of the life I’ve lived

The older I get
The longer I pray
I don’t know why, I guess that I
Got more to say
And the older I get
The more thankful I feel
For the life I’ve had, and all the life I’m living still*

*Lyrics to The Older I Get –Songwriters: Adam Wright, Hailey Whitters and Sarah Allison Turner

[Along with getting older with its sweet upside of grandchildren and finding clarity and contentment…there is the sadder side of losing people we love. That happened for Alan Jackson this week with the unexpected death of his oldest daughter Mattie’s husband, Ben Selecman…married less than a year. Prayers for this family.]

Age of Maturity – Consider This Radio Show – Annette Petrick

4) A Narcissist Culture – What happened to a once civil society? Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg spoke this week on the divisive and partisan Senate confirmation hearings of recent years. She reflected on her own hearing and that of her good friend and conservative Justice Scalia. Both of them confirmed to the Supreme Court by an almost unanimous Senate vote.

Some would say what has changed is the caliber of leaders in office now. Narcissist is a word used frequently in mainstream media.

I wrote earlier this week on narcissistic bosses and how to thrive under such leadership. We may not have chosen our boss, whether he or she is over a company or country, but we can determine to do what we can to help…not harm.

Do you get weary of the contentious nature of our press? How about the behavior of our elected officials, on both sides? Maybe a lifetime in the political arena (whether in public or private sector positions) brings the cynic out of everyone. Maybe the goal of doing whatever possible good we can breaks down if our boss is just too difficult or just too not like us.

The more I read on narcissistic bosses, the more I find that many who rise to the top have some of those traits. It’s what helped them get there. We can raise our backs to that and make as much noise as we can to get rid of that person or disrupt every process or decision.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Or we can seek out what is wisdom in handling a narcissistic boss… for our own sakes, the sake of the company (or country), and even for his. It is one thing to feel helpless and a whole other thing to escalate a situation and add to the damage, whatever it is.

Author and blogger Eric Barker has written a Wall Street Journal best-seller entitled Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong. I haven’t read the book yet but his article is intriguing.

In this article 5 Scientific Secrets to Handling a Narcissist, he gives some excellent counsel on what to do. Some of his advice may be hard to stomach…but stirring up a narcissist with negative, blaming banter will not get anyone where they say they hope to go.

Here are Barker’s 5 bits of excellent advice:

  1. If at all possible, just steer clear of him. – Do your job. Do it well.
  2. If he’s your boss, kiss up or shut up. – A narcissist doesn’t want to hear your take on things, especially if it is against his take. Until you decide to leave your organization, do your best to just get along. He is much better at deflecting and retaliating than you probably are at exposing his faults or unfitness for the job.
  3.  Know what you want and get payment up front. This relates to folks who have something (information, relationships, influence) the narcissist wants but doesn’t yet have. I can’t even think of an example…can you offer one?
    “Now I’ve been very negative toward narcissists (understandably) but they can be worked with and can even be good employees. Yes, really.Why? Because they want something. They really need to look good. And if you can align your desires with their desires, you may find yourself with an unstoppable achievement machine…They get what they want when they do what you want.” – Eric Barker
  4. If you have a raging narcissist within hearing and one who lets you close, ask some of equivalent of: “What would people think?” Let them answer the questions. Emphasize community and use disappointment, rather than anger, to keep them in line. They want to look good. So help them look good by helping them do good.”
  5. Be Dexter. Dexter was the focal character of a TV show of the same name. He was a forensics technician working murder cases. He became a serial killer of serial killers. Whew! I never watched the show but know of its cultish popularity. The thing is, all of us  can become narcissistic. Especially in cultures where narcissists rise to power. If we can confront the narcissism in ourselves then we can fight it by nurturing empathy – refusing to give into the impulse to self-elevate and direct that impulse to empower others. Something to think about.

5 Scientific Secrets to Handling a Narcissist – Eric Barker

How to De-Escalate a Fight with a Narcissist – Elinor Greenberg, PhD

Dealing with a Narcissist? – Try These 5 Negotiation Tactics – Tanya Tarr

Barking Up the Wrong Tree Quotes – GoodReads

Hostage Negotiation: the Top FBI Hostage Negotiator Teaches You the 5 Secrets to Getting What You Want – Eric Barker

This Is How to Raise Emotionally Intelligent Kids: 5 Secrets From Research – Eric Barker

5) Visual Aids – I am a visual learner. By that, information intake comes easier with images. I used to think because of being a voracious note taker that auditory learning was my preference. No, it was that innately, writing the notes was salvation for me because they gave me visual cues to master the auditory information taken in…later. Looking at my notes.

This week, I began a study of Genesis through Community Bible Study. The study opened with a YouTube visual that “storied” the beginning journey of the God and humankind. Genesis 1-11 in less than 8 minutes, being drawn as we watched. So good.

A big part of why children’s books are so attractive for a visual learner is the rich illustrations that accompany the story. One of my favorite artists is Marjolein Bastin. She paints the world around us with all its beauty, tiny detail, and true-to-life (im)perfections.

You might enjoy this short article and stunning video of hers where she describes “Why I Create”.

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That’s this week’s faves. How about you? please share some of yours with all of us through the Comments.

Be safe out there. Be kind to those you love and those you don’t yet… you never know what could change.

Bonuses:

Pull out that wedding dress – if it still fits, why not wear it from time to time?…for your pleasure and those who loved seeing you in it that one other time.Photo Credit: Brittney Kluse, Facebook

Meet the Nativity

Meet the Nativity and Find Your Family – Glen Scrivener

American Idol SweetheartsCaleb Lee Hutchison and Maddie Poppe fell in love while competing in the 16th season of the ABC music show American Idol. Maddie eventually went on to win with Caleb coming in second. Renditions of songs like Maddie’s Landslide and Caleb’s Don’t Close Your Eyes took them straight to the finals and into fans’ hearts. Here they are on the Live Tour singing together You’ve Got a Friend. So darling.

5 Friday Faves – Divine Appointments, the Dark Side of Children’s YouTube Videos, Senate Confirmation Hearings, a Fostering Film, and Things That Have Almost Always Been

Happy Friday! Quickly, here are my 5 favorite finds for the week.

1)  Divine appointments – There is something other-worldly by chance encounters, or visits with old friends, or even an oatmeal breakfast that seem larger than life. I’ve had all three this week and all struck a chord of the wonder and mystery of life…of how circumstances are orchestrated such that only God could be responsible. Why? Because of how deeply and lovingly they penetrate the heart.Visit with an old friend – no agenda; no pretense; just a heart rest.

A bowl of steel-cut oats made into a feast by another dear old friend.

Photo Credit: PXhere  [A chance meeting turned into an opportunity and maybe a friendship.]

On the chance encounter: Have you ever spotted someone in the grocery story and something about their appearance or demeanor drew your attention. The image above is a stock photo, but here’s the story. Today while lost in thought over what to buy for Dave’s birthday supper, I noticed this woman in the coolest dress and matching jacket. The fabric was olive green camo. She pulled it off stunningly. I wanted to say something but didn’t.

We ended up in the parking lot at the same time (totally “accidental”; no stalking going on here). I determined if we stowed our carts at the same time I would compliment her fashion sense. We did, and I did. Then a several minute conversation launched easily. She made the suit out of men’s cotton tshirts. Then we talked about our careers, our children, our hopes to make a difference in the world, our faith and our culture. She is an amazing woman…

We exchanged phone numbers and I hope coffee together will follow. I’m currently in a study on justice and longing for an avenue to bring a voice to the voiceless in this city. This woman is a part of that kind of work every single day.

A divine appointment.

2) The Dark Side of Children’s YouTube Videos – Leaving a child unsupervised with a smart phone or tablet is risky. I’m now more convinced than ever after discovering writer artist James Bridle. He wrote an essay entitled Something Is Wrong on the Internet. If you have children, or care about children, please read it. It is a bit freaky. The video below also tells how he sees how the internet, with apps such as YouTube, using bots and AI devices, is drawing children into content we would never want them to experience.

Who makes these videos? Can you even trace their creators?

“The more time you start to spend with them, the crazier and crazier you start to feel you may be….deep strangeness and deep lack of understanding…Who is making them? Some of them really and clearly by people who shouldn’t be around children at all. ” “There are real people trapped within these systems…even if you’re human, you have to end up behaving like a machine just to survive.” Kids drugged looking at these videos. A few auto-clicks away from videos opening surprise eggs will be videos with sexual or violent content still with cartoon characters or superheroes involved. Creepy wrong stuff!!! “Kids’ worst nightmares”.

“Inequality of power [and understanding] always leads to violence.”

“We need to stop thinking of technology as a solution to all of our problems, but think of it as a guide to what those problems actually are, so we can start thinking about them properly and start to address them.” – James Bridle

The Internet as Monster – Rob Dreher

3) Senate Confirmation Hearing – The greatest distraction of my week has been the Senate Confirmation Hearings. 4 days of high drama and brilliant oratory. All toward the determination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh‘s worthiness to replace Justice Kennedy on the US Supreme Court Justice. It was a rollicking, hold-on-to-your-seat experience for those present and for the rest of us watching remotely. The last day when witnesses (i.e. non-Senators) gave their testimony of Kavanaugh’s fitness for the Supreme Court was especially gripping.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Don’t miss the 4th day of hearings when witnesses gave their testimony (5 in favor and 5 opposing) of Judge Kavanaugh’s character and judicial preparedness for taking a chair on the Supreme Court. YouTube video linked here (1 hr 39 min into the video begins the witness panel).

The last of those witnesses was Akhil Reed Amar, Law professor at Yale University, a registered Democrat, staunch liberal who voted for Hillary Clinton. He actually gave testimony in support of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Here are his closing remarks:

“Responsible naysayers must become yaysayers of a sort; they must
specifically name better nominees realistically on the horizon.
If not Brett, who?
Distinguished Republicans: Kavanaugh is your team’s brightest judicial star. Rejoice!
Distinguished Democrats: Don’t be mad; be smart, and be careful what you wish for. Our party controls neither the White House nor the Senate. If you torpedo Kavanaugh, you’ll likely end up with someone worse —less brilliant, less constitutionally knowledgeable, less studious, less open-minded, less good for America.”
.

Senate Concludes Kavanaugh Hearing; Confirmation Likely – MPR News

Akhil Reed Amar Testimony Transcript

4) A Fostering Film – A funny and endearing and hopeful film on fostering children debuts this Fall. All I know about Instant Family is the trailer but it’s already on my calendar. Have a look:

5) Things That Have Almost Always Been – British novelist Matt Haig‘s book Notes on a Nervous Planet came to my attention via the following Twitter photo:Photo Credit: Notes on a Nervous PlanetMatt Haig, iAuthor on Twitter

Haig writes and speaks about anxiety and depression. He knows these experiences personally. I have only read quotes from his books but they are now on my “to-read” list.

The page above from his book Notes on a Nervous Planet was a beautiful study into the things that endure. I’m surprised that Haig describes himself as an atheist. Comforted by the things that have almost always been would seem to lend itself to the great comfort of knowing the God who has always been. No matter his thinking on this, his writing reminds us of the wonder of life including the reasons to stay alive (the title of his earlier book).

By the way, this would be an idea for a great night out with  a love or night in with a friend – to come up with our own list of the enduring stuff of life.

Notes on a Nervous PlanetMatt Haig

Goodreads Quotes from Notes on a Nervous Planet

Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig

Goodreads Quotes from Reasons to Stay Alive

YouTube Video – Matt Haig’s Top 5 Tips on Good Mental Health in a Social Media Age

That’s it for me. How about you? Please comment below about your week’s favorites…or thoughts on mine. Blessings.

Bonuses:

Quote: “Leaders aren’t great because they have power; they are great because they empower others.” Lolly Daskal, TED Talk

Why You Can’t Name the Virtues – Karen Swallow Prior

A Neuroscience Researcher Reveals 4 Rituals that Will Make You Happier – Eric Barker

The State of Your Attention Determines the State of Your Life – Srinivas Rao

TEDed – How the Sugar Affects the Brain

5 Ways to Pray for Trafficked People

Photo Credit: Charles Spurgeon, Prince of Preachers, Facebook